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Blog: July 2009 Archives

Freezing for peace - VIDEO

Thumbnail image for Freeze Video Picture 3.JPG

(link to video in youtube is below)

Peace Now activists in Israel have gone to the street to remind Israelis that settlements are a burden to Israelis. They have been handing out yellow Post-It notes that say "Not just Obama's problem. Not just the world's problem. The settlements are our problem."

Tom Pickering met with Hamas last month

The Washington Post reports today that retired U.S. Ambassador Tom Pickering met with two Hamas officials in Switzerland last month. The article makes clear that this meeting was held without the knowledge of the Obama administration, so I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that the Obama administration is about to change course in how it deals with Hamas. Just yesterday, Secretary Clinton reiterated that the administration is sticking with the Quartet conditions.

What the article doesn't mention is that

Statement on Jerusalem policy

The following is a statement on the Obama Administration's policy on Jerusalem issued today by APN, Ameinu, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Meretz USA, and J Street:

Red-Dead Conduit and it's Possibilities for Peace

Water is a big problem in the Middle East. Israel doesn't have much, and some of what it does have is a source of great dispute

Letting the Cat Guard the Cream: Elad in Silwan

In May, on a visit to Jerusalem, I spent half a day in Silwan, where an extremist settlers' group runs and profits from an archaeological site - arguably the most sensitive and most politically-charged archaeological dig in the world.

The group, Elad, is busily Judaizing Silwan, turning it into "Ir David," (the "City of David") both by turning it into a site that exclusively champions the Jewish narrative of Biblical Jerusalem and by settling extreme right-wing Jews in this vast, densely-populated Palestinian village.

How did it happen that the government of Israel officially sub-contracted to an extremist settlers' organization one of the most sensitive sites in Israel, a stone's throw from the world's most sacred site to Jews and the third most sacred site to Muslims? How did it happen that the government appointed the cat to guard the cream?

Water Crisis reemerges in the Public Eye

This post was written by APN Intern Elizabeth Goldstein

The issue of water in Israel may be back in the public conscience. Last week, New York Times op-ed contributor Stanley Weiss wrote about the effect that water crises have had, or could have on the political climate of the region. Such news is not often reported on, but Israel's problem with water and the heavy effect the issue may have on the Arab-Israeli conflict is not one that should be disregarded. Amidst all the talk about a settlement freeze and the occasional reminders that the blockade on Gaza is ongoing, I offer a reminder that this issue also deserves attention.

Looking seriously at Breaking the Silence

Testimonies about the IDF's conduct during the Gaza War by 54 Israeli soldiers have renewed debate in Israel about the moral toll of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israeli society.

Not surprising they have been criticized by some. They even sparked a counter effort. Clearly, they've struck a nerve.

Wrong Bedfellows

According to the website of "Christians United for Israel" (CUFI) a number of members of Congress, Jewish community officials, and even a senior Israeli diplomat are speaking at their conference this week.

This is disturbing, because CUFI advocates policies that are bad for Israel, bad for America, and bad for peace.

Israeli Double-Talk on Settlements

For years, Israelis and opponents of Middle East peace efforts accused Yasser Arafat of speaking out of both sides of his mouth - saying one thing in English, when the whole world was listening, and saying something else in Arabic when addressing Palestinians and the Arab world.  They used this as evidence of Arafat's untrustworthiness as a "partner" for peace negotiations.

What do these same people make of the fact that today it is Israeli officials who are talking out of both sides of their mouths?  Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak (not to mention their loyal advocate in the US, Elliot Abrams) are arguing publicly that Israel wants only to continue settlement construction according to the alleged "understandings" achieved with President Bush - "natural growth" to permit "normal life" through construction only in settlement blocs, only on the Israeli side of the barrier, and only within the existing footprint of settlements.  But at exactly the same time. Israeli government officials are telling the Israel's High Court of Justice a very different story, and they are doing so in statements to the court.

The Shepherds Hotel and Clarifying Bibi's Real Intentions

In his enthusiasm to defend this latest Irving Moskowitz project (the same Irving Moskowitz who was a key player in Netanyahu's Hasmonean Tunnel debacle), Netanyahu gushed:

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu argued passionately in the Israeli cabinet meeting that Israelis have the right to live anywhere in Jerusalem.   In his enthusiasm to defend this latest Irving Moskowitz project (the same Irving Moskowitz who was a key player in Netanyahu's Hasmonean Tunnel debacle), Netanyahu gushed:

"This has been the policy of all Israeli governments and I would like to say that it is indeed being implemented because in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods and in the western part of the city have been purchased by - or rented to - Arab residents and we did not interfere. This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city."

The problem with this argument is that it isn't true.  Israeli lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann sets the record straight with the following points:

Nahum Barnea on Bibi's Transparent Ploy: Jerusalem

There is an important op-ed by Nahum Barnea on page 1 of today's Yedioth Ahronoth (translation by Israel News Today - INT).

Excerpt:  "Torn between the pressures from Washington and the pressures from the right wing branch of his party and his coalition, Netanyahu chose the easy solution: Jerusalem.  Like then, in the Western Wall tunnel affair, he thinks that the magic word "Jerusalem" will rally behind him not only the right wing in Israel, but also the political center in Israel, a majority of US Jewry and a majority of the members of Congress.  In other words: He wishes to divert the clash with the Obama administration from the question of construction in the settlements, where he does not enjoy real support, either here or there, to a more convenient playing field.  This could have been brilliant if it were not so transparent. [read on for full text]

The Shepherds Hotel and Clarifying Bibi's Real Intentions

The lead editorial in Haaretz today offers a great analysis into the current controversy over the Shepherd's Hotel.

Playing with fire


The controversy surrounding the plan to create a Jewish enclave in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem is not another routine expression of the U.S.-Israel dispute over the settlements. The timing of the decision to build dozens of housing units in the Shepherd Hotel complex, at the height of efforts to reach an agreement on limited construction in the settlements, casts doubt over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's willingness to enter serious negotiations on a final-status agreement. The support he granted the construction project yesterday, despite the vehement condemnations of America and Britain, show he is prepared to endanger Israel's most essential foreign relations for a provocative initiative led by Irving Moskowitz, the patron of right-wing organizations in East Jerusalem.

Obama Means what he Says

Israeli leaders say they're bewildered by the Obama administration's "obsession" with West Bank settlement growth. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was recently quoted asking/grumbling "what do they want from me?" His aides told reporters and American Jewish leaders that Washington's position on settlements is "childish", "stupid" and "delusional" and that the Obama team should "come to its senses."

An Arab voice for peace

The crown prince of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, wrote a powerful op-ed that was published by the Washington Post today. It's a must read.

Obama Means what he Says: New Op-Ed by Debra DeLee

BitterLemons-International today published this article by Debra DeLee, APN's President and CEO:

Obama means what he says
Debra DeLee

Israeli leaders say they're bewildered by the Obama administration's "obsession" with West Bank settlement growth. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was recently quoted asking/grumbling "what do they want from me?" His aides told reporters and American Jewish leaders that Washington's position on settlements is "childish", "stupid" and "delusional" and that the Obama team should "come to its senses."

How to freeze settlements?

Last night I got an email from an APN activist who raised some concerns about how a settlement freeze would be enforced. The activist was responding to APN's call to action. Her email raises an important question that I thought was worth raising in this forum:

July 15 - Israeli human rights lawyer attorney Michael Sfard is featured with discussant Amjad Atallah and moderator Daniel Levy

APN Meets with President Obama


APN President and CEO Debra DeLee met this afternoon with President Barack Obama. She was part of a small group of Jewish leaders who were invited to the White House.

Immediately following the meeting, DeLee said "President Obama and his team are doing all the right things to generate progress towards peace for Israel. We will continue to support these efforts."

Hummus or Hamas?

YA-Br2.jpgIf you haven't already, you must see this video of our very own Yossi Alpher (APN's guest author of Hard Questions/Tough Answers) and Ghassan Khatib sitting down for an interview with international superstar Sacha Baron Cohen, whose new movie "Bruno" debuts today in theaters worldwide...

Why Israel Can No Longer Quibble Over Outposts

Today in Haartez, veteran military correspondent Amos Harel reports on the fact that the US is apparently no longer accepting the Roadmap formula regarding the number of outposts Israel has to remove.  Harel makes the case that this is further evidence of the Obama Administration's "unyielding" approach on the settlements issue.

Which may be true.  But Harel fails to note a simpler explanation for why, regardless of other aspects of the administration's policy on settlements, the Roadmap formula -- under which Israel is responsible for evacuating only those outposts established during Sharon's time as Prime Minister -- is no longer the exclusive measure of Israeli responsibility vis a vis outposts.

The reason?  Because the other outposts - the ones not established under Sharon's watch, were established during periods when two other men served as Prime Minister.  And those two men -- Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak -- are again running the show today. 

Hummus or Hamas?

If you haven't already, you must see this video of our very own Yossi Alpher (APN's guest author of Hard Questions/Tough Answers) and Ghassan Khatib sitting down for an interview with international superstar Sacha Baron Cohen, whose new movie "Bruno" debuts today in theaters worldwide.

Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video

Be sure to leave your very own "Tough Question" for Yossi on how to achieve peace in the Middle East or on the health benefits of hummus.

Seriously, Yossi and Ghassan do amazing work at, an Israeli-Palestinian Crossfire, and, a Middle East Roundtable.

"Normal Life" for Settlers?

Israeli diplomats were recently instructed not to use the term "natural growth" in reference to West Bank settlement expansion. Instead, Israeli spokespersons must talk about the need to provide and maintain "normal life" for the settlers.

West Bank story from a Peace Now volunteer

The following report was written by Adie Angrist, a student at the University of Michigan (originally from Brookline, MA), who has been volunteering with Peace Now in Israel this summer:

It was the muggiest day of the week in Tel-Aviv and Noa's car was a sauna. But we had an important mission to accomplish and thank goodness for that.

The US has officially denied an Israeli press report to the effect that the US has agreed that Israel can continue some settlement construction.  Reuters is reporting:

"Asked in Washington whether the report was true, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly replied: 'No, that report in the Israeli media outlet is incorrect. Our bottom line is -- is the same. It has not changed. And that's that all parties in the region have to honour their obligations. And you know what our position is regarding settlements. This activity has to stop,' Kelly said."

No doubt the last word on the subject has not yet been said.

Israel's Dangerous Message on Settlements

Last week, and again today, the Government of Israel sent a very clear message about how seriously it is taking US demands to freeze settlement construction and remove illegal outposts.  The gist of that message:  Israel is not taking these demands seriously at all.

APN Intern Event a Success

(This post was written by APN intern Elizabeth Goldstein)

On Thursday, July 2nd, Americans for Peace Now held the first of its "Summer Intern Events." Two international journalists came to the Rayburn House Office Building to talk about their perspectives as reporters on the status of events in the Middle East, including - but not limited to - the Arab-Israeli Conflicts.

A settler at Dolev assaulting a Peace Now survey team and a news crew is part of a report aired on Israeli TV

Peace Now activists assaulted on video


Some stunning footage just became available of a settler attacking a team of Peace Now activists who were surveying West Bank settlement construction.

The assault took place at the settlement of Dolev. The incident was captured on video and reported by Israel's Channel 2 Television, whose news team was documenting Peace Now's work, and was also assaulted.

The Ultimate Chutzpah

The following was written by our intern Dan Fischer:

APN's Ori Nir told me that when he was a teenager in Israel, he used to play with his friends the "ultimate chutzpah" game. They would try to one-up each other by completing the sentence: "The ultimate chutzpah would be..."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor "drown them in the Red Sea" Lieberman scored high last week when he complained to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that Israel has bad PR internationally.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu one-upped even Lieberman Tuesday.

Three Winks

by Talia Sasson

Attorney Talia Sasson filed the settlement outpost report to the Sharon government [and is now a Meretz member]

Netanyahu mentioned three points in the Bar Ilan speech with regard to the continuation of construction in the settlements: There will be no confiscations of private Palestinian land; no new Israeli settlements will be established in the West Bank; the needs of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank must be met.  What do these statements mean?

Please check out my latest op-ed:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Settlers seek to thwart Palestinian state

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

by Ori Nir  Special to WJW

ABSORPTION DRIVE IN AMONA" screams the ad in the national-religious Israeli weekly Ma'ayinei Ha-Yeshu'ah, inviting Israelis to come settle in an illegal West Bank settlement-outpost near the Palestinian town of Ramallah. The colorful ad promises families a home "accommodating the family's specifications," as well as "full community services."

Two new items regarding the "Museum of Tolerance" in Jerusalem

Two quick updates on the MOT project:  First, the latest (ridiculous) effort by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to justify the project.  And second, a promising new development in efforts to stop the project: Jewish-Muslim cooperation.

Ilan Mizrahi documentary "Israel: Rise of the Right"

A fascinating documentary by an Israeli photographer and film maker who had direct, personal access to key figures in Israel's far right-wing community (largely the followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane).   Virtually no commentary - just the extremists in their own words.

part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4

Finding the truth about settlements

Yesterday, volunteers with Peace Now in Israel fanned out into 5 teams to survey the extent of recent settlement construction in the West Bank.

A Look at Palestinian Public Opinion


(This blog was authored by APN Intern Elizabeth Goldstein)

The Jerusalem Media & Communications Centre conducted (link has expired) two polls this year of Palestinians: one in late January, one in late June. The surveys indicate that in general Palestinians seem to feel better about their leaders and the U.S. role now than earlier in the year. At the same time, indifference and distrust for all politicians is prominent when it comes to local politics, U.S. relations, and relations with Israel.